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When a degree in the professions can ing, whether on morals or nature, is, first be taken only by men of independent for- rationally to explain, and then produce tunes, the number of candidates in learn the experiment. The most instructive ing is lessened, and, consequently, the method is to show the experiment first; advancement of learning retarded. curiosity is then excited, and attention
This slowness of conferring degrees is a awakened to every subsequent deduction. remnant of scholastic barbarity. Paris, Hence it is evident, that in a well-formed Louvain, and those universities which still education a course of history should ever retain their ancient institutions, confer the precede a course of ethics. doctor's degree slower even than we. The sons of our nobility are permitted
The statutes of every university should to enjoy greater liberties in our universities be considered as adapted to the laws of than those of private men. I should blush its respective government. Those should to ask the men of learning and virtue who alter as these happen to fluctuate. preside in our seminaries the reason of
Four years spent in the arts (as they such a prejudicial distinction. Our youth are called in colleges) is perhaps laying should there be inspired with a love of too laborious a foundation : entering a philosophy; and the first maxim among profession without any previous acqui- philosophers is, That merit cnly makes sitions of this kind is building too bold a distinction. superstructure.
Whence has proceeded the vain magniTeaching by lecture, as at Edinburgh, ficence of expensive architecture in our may make men scholars if they think pro- colleges? Is it that men study to more per; but instructing by examination, as at advantage in a palace than in a cell? One Oxford, will make them so often against single performance of taste or genius contheir inclination.
fers more real honours on its parent uniEdinburgh only disposes the student to versity than all the labours of the chisel. receive learning ; Oxford often makes him Surely pride itself has dictated to the actually learned.
fellows of our colleges the absurd passion In a word, were I poor, I should send of being attended at meals, and on other my son to Leyden or Edinburgh, though public occasions, by those poor men who, the annual expense in each, particularly willing to be scholars
, come in upon some in the first, is very great. Were I rich, charitable foundation. It implies a conI would send him to one of our own uni- tradiction, for men to be at once learning versities. By an education received in the the liberal arts and at the same time first, he has the best likelihood of living ; treated as slaves ; at once studying freedom by that received in the latter, he has the and practising servitude. best chance of becoming great. We have of late heard much of the
CHAPTER XII. necessity of studying oratory. Vespasian
The Conclusion.' was the first who paid professors of rhe- EVERY subject acquires an adventitious toric for publicly instructing youth at importance to him who considers it with Rome. However, those pedants never application. He finds it more closely made an orator.
connected with human happiness than the The best orations that ever were spoken rest of mankind are apt to allow; he sees were pronounced in the parliaments of consequences resulting from it which do King Charles the First. These men never not strike others with equal conviction; studied the rules of oratory.
and still pursuing speculation beyond the Mathematics are, perhaps, too much bounds of reason, too frequently becomes studied at our universities. This seems a ridiculously earnest in trifles or absurdity. science to which the meanest intellects are It will perhaps be incurring this impuequal. I forget who it is that says, “ All tation, to deduce a universal degeneracy men might understand mathematics, if they of manners from so slight an origin as the would.
depravation of taste; to assert that, as a The most methodical manner of lectur- nation grows dull, it sinks into debauchery.
Yet such, probably, may be the consequence | fewer powers of doing mischief. The of literary decay, or, not to stretch the man, the nation, must therefore be good, thought beyond what it will bear, vice and whose chiefest luxuries consist in the restupidity are always mutually productive finement of reason; and reason can never of each other.
be universally cultivated, unless guided by Life, at the greatest and best, has been taste, which may be considered as the link compared to a froward child, that must between science and common sense, the be humoured and played with till it falls medium through which learning should asleep, and then all the care is over. Our ever be seen by society. few years are laboured away in varying its Taste will therefore often be a proper pleasures; new amusements are pursued standard, when others fail, to judge of a with studious attention; the most childish nation's improvement or degeneracy in vanities are dignified with titles of import- morals. We have often no permanent ance; and the proudest boast of the most characteristics by which to compare the aspiring philosopher is no more than that virtues or the vices of our ancestors with he provides his little playfellows the our own. A generation may rise and pass greatest pastime with the greatest inno- away without leaving any traces of what
it really was; and all complaints of our Thus the mind, ever wandering after deterioration may be only topics of declaamusement, when abridged of happiness mation, or the cavillings of disappointon one part, endeavours to find it on ment: but in taste we have standing another; when intellectual pleasures are evidence; we can with precision compare disagreeable, those of sense will take the the literary performances of our fathers lead. The man who in this age is en- with our own, and from their excellence amoured of the tranquil joys of study and or defects determine the moral, as well as retirement may in the next, should learn the literary, merits of either. ing be fashionable no longer, feel an If, then, there ever comes a time when ambition of being foremost at a horse taste is so far depraved among us that course; or, if such could be the absurdity critics shall load every work of genius with of the times, of being himself a jockey. unnecessary comment, and quarter their Reason and appetite are therefore masters empty performances with the substantial of our revels in turn; and as we incline merits of an author, both for subsistence to the one, or pursue the other, we rival and applause; if there comes a time when angels or imitate the brutes. In the pur- censure shall speak in storms, but praise suit of intellectual pleasures lies every be whispered in the breeze, while real virtue; of sensual, every vice.
excellence often finds shipwreck in either; It is this difference of pursuit which if there be a time when the muse shall marks the morals and characters of man- seldom be heard, except in plaintive elegy, kind; which lays the line between the as if she wept her own decline, while lazy enlightened philosopher and the half- compilations supply the place of original taught citizen; between the civil citizen thinking; should there ever be such a and illiterate peasant; between the law- time, may succeeding critics, both for the obeying peasant and the wandering savage honour of our morals, as well as of Africa,--an animal less mischievous, in- learning, say that such a period bears no deed, than the tiger, because endued with resemblance to the present age !
END OF AN INQUIRY INTO THE PRESENT STATE OF POLITE LEARNING,